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Geysers
by Bryce Gregory
Physical Geology
Spring 2010
        

Geysers 

            The world today has many things that amaze people and question how it works and what makes it happen.  One of those things would have to be geysers.  Geysers are very rare structures that are found throughout the world and surprise people more and more every day. 

What is a Geyser?   

            In simple terms a geyser is a hot spring that erupts at periodical times and shoots gallons of hot water and steam into the air.  However, the steps it takes for this to happen are a little more in depth and take a number of certain circumstances to happen all at once.   

Conditions Required for Geysers

1) hot rocks below

2) an ample ground water source

3) a subsurface water reservoir

4) fissures to deliver water to the surface

Credit Table: www.geology.com

 

          When all of these requirement are met then the amazing site and sounds of a geyser erupting happen, and amaze everyone in presence of its outcome.  There are only about 1000 active geysers in the world at this point in time, making geysers a very rare structure on this planet.  People would suspect that having these around would not be too uncommon because there is water everywhere on the earth, and everyone also knows there are many hot rocks below the surface.  The most unique condition that was not stated in the table would have to be the underground plumbing for the geyser to erupt.  This plumbing has to be water and pressure tight to even allow these geysers to work.

http://www.atlanticfountains.com/images/ACPic/GEYSER.jpg








 

 

 




Credit Photo:
http://www.atlanticfountains.com/D_fountains.htmhttp://www.atlanticfountains.com/D_fountains.htm

 

 How do Geysers Work?

            It first starts off as water that is close to the earth’s surface.  Then the water starts to work its way down through the different layers of the earth’s crust and other layers until it reaches the heat source that fuels the geyser (normally the heat source is magma chamber). As the water reaches this heat source it slowly begins to reach its boiling point.  With the water being at such great depths water does not turn into steam due to the cool water above making the heated water pressurized.  When this situation is occurring it is called “superheated”, and that is when the water is hot enough to become steam but cannot due to the cooler water above. 

 

 Geyser crosssection

Credit Photo: http://www.hanksville.org/daniel/geology/geysers.html

          After the water is pressurized the next step is ready to take place.  That is either the water is heated even more turning it into steam, or the pressure is reduced then letting the water turn into steam.  As water is turned into steam it expands greatly making more pressure leading to the eruption of the geyser, and sending gallons of steam and hot water into the sky.

 

http://www.supersavertours.com/images/ICELAND--GEYSER-1.jpg

Credit Photo: http://www.supersavertours.com/images/ICELAND--GEYSER-1.jpg

Where are Geysers in the World? 

            There are geysers all across the world.  They range from the United States, all the way to Iceland, and then to New Zealand.  These rare structures are everywhere as long as all conditions are met to make them. Geysers are only found in five countries those being:

 

Countries With Many Active Geysers

1) United States - Yellowstone National Park

2) Russia - Dolina Geiserov

3) Chile - El Tatio

4) New Zealand - Taupo Volcanic Zone

5) Iceland - Many locations

Credit Table: www.geology.com 



           The top sites for geysers however would have to be found in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and Dolina Geizerov, Russia, which have over100 geysers at each location.

 
http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/geysers/images/geysmapw3.gif

Credit Photo: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/geysers/geysmapw.html

What’s so great about Yellowstone?

             Yellowstone is probably one of the most known and famous sites for geysers and hot springs.  There are over 10000 thermal features that are in Yellowstone National park, and over 500 of those thermal features are geysers.  The park contains half the worlds known geysers and is a very popular place for tourism due to Old Faithful.  Yellowstone is not only just a location for geysers and thermal features, it is also a spot for years of geology history because the park is located in an ancient caldera that erupted 600000 years ago.

http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Imgs/Gif/Yellowstone/Maps/map_yellowstone.gif

Credit photo: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Imgs/Gif/Yellowstone/Maps/map_yellowstone.gif 

          Old Faithful is probably the most well known geyser in the world.  Old Faithful has an average eruption length of 1.5 to 5 minutes and normally is erupts every hour and a half, making it a very active geyser.  However since this is a natural occurrence it changes day by day and year by year, and sometimes cannot be predictable.  It also has an average eruption height of about 130 feet and releases thousands of gallons of water per day.

 

Yellowstone Geysers
Eruption Intervals, Duration, Heights

Location

Average Interval

Duration

Height (ft)

Old Faithful

65 or 92 min

1.5-5 min

106-184

Artemisia

irregular

5-25 sec

30

Aurum

2-4 hours

70 sec

20

Baby Daisy

35-55 min

3 min

25

Beehive

12-18 hours

5 min

150+

"Boardwalk"

irregular

5-10 min

20

Castle

12.5 hours

15-20 min

75

Daisy

2.5 hours

3.5 min

75

Depression

5-9 hours

6 min

10

Echinus

irregular

3-5 min

30+

Fan & Mortar

6-10 days?

45 min

100+

Fountain

5.5 hours

9 min

78

Giant

last eruption 12/24/03

1 hour

200+

Giantess

last eruption 4/21/04

4-48 hours

150+

Grand

8.5 hours

8-12 min

160+

Great Fountain

12.5 hours

45 min

70-200+

Lion - initial to intitial

about 8 hours

1-7 min

60

Lion - within series

about 90 min

3-5 min

30

Little Cub

about 55 min

10 min

5

Plate

3.5-4 min

4 min

5

Plume

recent periods of dormancy

1 min

25

Riverside

6.25 hours

20 min

75

Steamboat

last eruptions 4/27/03 and 5/23/05

10+ min

300+

Riverside

6.25 hours

20 min

75

Data from National Park Service
(Measurements done in 2002)

Credit Photo: www.geology.com

RESOURCES:

1. http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/geyser.aspx

2. http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~glennon/geysers/

3. http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/geysers/geysmapw.html

4. http://www.hanksville.org/daniel/geology/geysers.html

5. http://www.yellowstone.net/geysers/

6. http://geology.com/articles/geyser.shtml

7. http://www.yellowstone-natl-park.com/oldfaithful.htm